Composed on October 18, 1910, this great standard was Bryan’s first major hit and his most memorable, though he is said to have written over 1000 songs, 229 of them certified by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), of which he was a founding member. It was recorded that same year by the American Broadway singer and Hollywood actress, Blanche Ring, and was her signature song for a period of time. Her recording charted at #1 in 1911. Ada Jones, Billy Murray and The American Quartet recorded their own version of the tune in November 1910, and released the album in 1911, with the single charting at #1.
Come Josephine in My Flying Machine has commonly been recorded as a duet with one male vocalist and one female vocalist singing in a call-and-response style. In addition to its lighthearted lyrics and bouncy melody, the song captures the historic significance of a time of groundbreaking technological strides with airplanes and man’s first moments of flight; it was written seven years after the Wright brothers made their first successful test flights on December 17, 1903, and four years before aircraft would be used as a weapon of war during World War I.
The playful lyrics, “Whoa! Dear, don’t hit the moon / No, dear, not yet, but soon,” were also visionary, as the United States of America sent the first manned mission to land on the moon on July 20, 1969, 59 years after Bryan wrote those lines.
This classic song has enjoyed numerous revivals throughout the 1900s. In one scene from the 1934 movie “It Happened One Night,” the bus riders give an impromptu performance of Come Josephine in My Flying Machine. It was also performed by the chorus in the 1939 film “The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle,” starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In the 1940s, it was featured in the sing-along cartoon “Follow the Bouncing Ball,” and parodied by Spike Jones and His City Slickers in their release of the single in 1942. The song was also featured in the 1949 film “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” performed with dance by Mark Stevens (dubbed by Bill Shirley) and June Haver (dubbed by Bonnie Lou Williams).
Most recently, the song was featured in director James Cameron’s Academy Award-winning movie “Titanic,” released in 1997. “Jack,” played by Leonardo DiCaprio, sings a few lines from Come Josephine In My Flying Machine to his love, “Rose,” played by Kate Winslet, in the famous “I’m flying” scene at the bow of the ship. The song turns up again toward the end of the film, with Rose singing the tune to herself when she is stranded in the cold ocean hoping to be rescued after the Titanic’s fateful end. The song was recorded by renowned Celtic folksinger and songwriter Moya Brennan on the “Back to Titanic” soundtrack.
Alfred Bryan was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003. Peg O’ My Heart, another tremendous song that he co-wrote with Fisher, was also inducted.